Tiny and elegant, miniature horses were first bred over 400 years ago in
Europe for the children of royalty. In the 1800s, these unique horses were
imported to North America for use in the mines. Today, they are free from
working in the dank and often dangerous caves and have turned to pulling a
dressed cart with a passenger from time to time.
Should your first miniature be a baby or an older horse? A mare or a stallion?
That’s a hard decision. There are a number of things to consider.
What do you plan to do with the horse in the future?
Do you have children and if so how old are they?
What is your experience level with horses?
How much time do you want to spend working with the horse?
The babies are cute and hard to resist but they will require more time.
Even if you are buying your horse as a pet you will need to teach it to
lead, have its feet done and to be socially appropriate. Poorly socialized
and poorly behaved horses are like poorly behaved children- not a lot of fun
to be around. If you have young children remember young horses are like puppies
and kittens. Everything goes in their mouths. They don’t mean to hurt when they
nip you or your child. Even with a miniature those little teeth can hurt.
A young horse may try to “play” with you and your children as he would another horse. He has not learned that it is bad manners to kick at people so if he is being chased those feet may flick out in a playful gesture that is really painful. Young colts must learn early that humans are in charge or they can be very hard- headed and willful. We discourage families with small children from keeping a stallion as a pet. Even though small, a stallion is a stallion and minis see themselves as bigger than the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Still, minis by their very nature are “user friendly” and a young horse will do its best to please you. The things that they do are a lot of fun. There is nothing sweeter than to see a fuzzy baby stretched out asleep or sneaking up on something new. Their curiosity is never ending.
Many people who get a first miniature have a mental picture of driving down the road in their little cart with their child or grandchild at their side. With a young horse you should wait until it is at least two before you begin to harness it to a cart. You can begin ground driving a little earlier. Always remember that it is not so much the size of the horse as its developmental level that governs when and how much training the horse gets. Young horses have a short attention span the same as young children. They don’t have the mental stability and control that will come with age and experience. The bones and cartilage of a young horse are also not ready for strenuous training.
A younger horse will often be more eager to spend time with you than an older horse although this is not always true and is more dependent on the personality of the horse than its age. You will be able to train the younger horse exactly as you would like. If you have experience with horses big or little then the training process may be part of the fun of ownership for you. A grown, trained horse brings a lot of positives to the table. Not only is it past the nipping stage and rough play stage but it has learned to behave appropriately. If a horse of three or four bites, runs away when you try to touch it, or swings its rear to you, walk away from the deal unless you are experienced with horses. By this age the horse is not being playful it is being bad.
If a horse has been trained correctly it already knows its job. Ask any one who participates in competitions of one type or another about the benefits of an experienced horse for an inexperienced handler. This is particularly true in driving. Driving looks like a piece of cake, but in the cart you have only your hands, voice and driving whip to keep things moving along smoothly.
Thank goodness my first driving horse knew what to do. I didn't have to worry that he would run away or throw himself over in the cart. I knew I was in a safe environment and he knew his job was to keep me safe. As I became more skilled at driving, I wanted a more talented horse, but my first driving horse was exactly what I needed in the beginning. He forgave me my mistakes and was tolerant of lots of things that a green horse isn't. A green horse depends on you for security and if you seem uncertain it says to itself "Oh Oh she's nervous, I’d better be nervous too. There must be something wrong" An experienced horse says to itself "Hmh new driver. Well let's see if we can give her a little confidence."
My first driving horse was also my first showmanship horse. He was really good at showmanship. Sometimes in the show ring he would look at me as though to say, “Just hang on to the lead, smile and try to LOOk like you know what you are doing. And please don’t embarrass me by doing something really stupid.” I only had to think about what I needed to do; I never had to worry that the horse would mess up.
If you are interested in raising horses a bred mare may cost a little more, but will get you going quickly. Many breeders offer 3 in 1 packages, the mare and this year’s baby plus rebred for next year. When you look at the purchase price divide it by three because you are really buying three horses. A weanling or yearling of comparable quality to the bred mare will be less now, but it will be three years before the first baby is born. Little stud colts are usually less expensive unless they are so outstanding and well bred that they are in demand. Remember a stallion can breed more mares in one season than a mare can have babies in her lifetime. A bad stallion can make lots of inferior babies. As more people are standing their stallions to public stud it is becoming easier and easier to find a good stallion nearby when breeding time comes around.
Your decisions about what you buy should be guided by what you intend to do in the future. If your primary interest is performance than look to horses with a good record in the performance area. Just as all horses are not halter champions all horses are not performance champions. What makes a horse excel as a driving horse may not be what is winning in the halter classes. Very small horses (28” and under) are cute, but they will never effectively pull a cart. This is true even if you only want a pet to pull a cart for fun.
If you are going to want to sell horses keep your market in mind. You may read about horses that sell for $50,000 but believe me they are the exception. Think about what you were interested in paying – that’s about what people will be willing to pay you for your horses when the time comes.
There are two major miniature horse registries that maintain pedigrees in the United States today. The AMHR (American Miniature Horse Registry) is a subsidiary of the American Shetland Pony Club. The AMHR registers miniature horses in two divisions. The "A" division recognizes horses that mature at 34 inches or less. The "B" division recognizes horses over 34 inches to 38 inches. Horses in this registry are given temporary registrations when they are juveniles. They receive permanent registration at three years of age after being measured for height to determine what division they will be placed in. It is a closed registry meaning that both of the parents need to be registered in order for a foal to be registered. The AMHR will, however, accept foals for registry if their parents are AMHA registered.
The AMHA (American Miniature Horse Association) is a stand-alone association. It recognizes only horses that measure 34 inches or less. Juveniles are issued temporary registrations in this registry also. Unlike the AMHR, however, permanent certification is not made until 5 years of age to assure that horses are fully grown prior to receiving their permanent registration. This is a closed registry and will only accept foals that have both parents with AMHA registrations. There is a hardship registration at 5 years for horses that do make the height requirements although the registration fees are quite expensive. Height for both registries is determined by taking the vertical distance from the ground at the point where the last mane hairs are found at the base of the neck.
* The statistical information that we will give below most appropriately fits with horses that will more than likely mature at 34 inches or less.
* Foals are born weighing anywhere from 12 to 25 pounds depending on their size. They can stand anywhere from 15 to 22 inches tall at birth.
* Miniature horses grow to approximately 90 % of their adult height by the time that they are a year old.
* Depending on their size adult miniature horses can weigh anywhere from 150 to 350 pounds.
* It takes about eleven months of pregnancy for a miniature horse to develop prior to being born. This is the same as for full sized horses.
* Foals are normally weaned from nursing their mothers at 4 to 5 months of age.
* For showing purposes, all horse's birthdates are considered to be January 1 of the year that they were born regardless of their actual date of birth that year.
* For showing purposes miniatures are considered "Junior" horses through their 2 year old year.
* A "Senior" horse is 3 years of age or older.
* Senior horses can be trained and shown pulling a buggy and show in other performance classes such as hunter, jumper and obstacle classes.
* Miniature horses can easily pull a buggy and move their own weight. Consideration must be given to the terrain and footing that the buggy will be riding on.
* We discourage all but very small children from riding miniatures. We consider anything more than 20% of the horse's body weight a significant load to pack. AMHA miniatures are not generally considered as riding horses.
* Having had both full sized horses and miniatures, we feel that the personality of miniatures is substantially more easy going than full sized horses.
* If we were to classify miniature horses from easiest to handle to hardest to handle we would place the gelding first, the mare second, and the stallion most difficult to handle.
* Junior horses are generally more flighty and skiddish than adult horses.
GENERAL CARE AND HEALTH
* Miniature horses consume the same feeds as full sized horses. These are primarily pasture grass, hay, and grain.
* A single miniature horse can be reasonably maintained on as little as 1/4 acre of land provided that its feed is supplemented with hay on a daily basis and the horse is also provided with a structure for shade or to get in out of the rain or other inclement weather conditions
* Miniature horses, depending on their age, size and whether they are also on pasture, will consume in the range of 2 to 5 pounds of good quality hay per day.
* Generally hooves of miniatures are trimmed at two month intervals. This may be necessary more often with younger horses (yearlings and younger) while they are growing to assure proper bone development, leg conformation and gait.
* Horses are usually wormed on a two month routine with one of the modern wormers or fed the daily supplement that has a wormer included.
* Veterinarians should be consulted for advice on annual vaccination programs for horses to prevent common diseases. Annual dental care is very important in miniatures.
* In the winter the miniature horse gets a very long coat and it can be very deceiving about how their weight is holding. It is important to actually check the horses condition by rubbing the fingers across the ribs of the horse just below the backbone. If a "washboard" feel is evident, the horse is probably underweight and the feed ration should be increased.
BREEDING AND FOALING
* Breeding of a mare should be no earlier than three years of age out of concern for adequate physical development of the mare at time of birthing. Others breed at two years. I believe this practice leads to more difficult birthing problems. It is not uncommon, however, for mares to remain immature until four or older. Sometimes mares will not conceive their first pregnancy until they are 7 years of age.
* Many stallions are fertile as two year olds. As with mares, many others are not sexually mature until they are older. Many miniature horse stallions do not have both of their testicle descend into the scrotum until they are three or older. Unfortunately, many veterinarians are unaware of this fact and call miniature stallions that are over a year old with undescended testicles "cryptorchids". This is not the case. Miniatures mature differently than full-sized horses.
* Breeding is accomplished by either turning the stallion out into the pasture with a group of mares. This is known appropriately as "pasture breeding". Breeding is also accomplished by introducing the stallion to the mare when she is in heat and handlers controlling both the stallion and mare during the breeding process. This method is known as "hand breeding"
* The normal foaling window is between 310 and 360 days after conception. It is not uncommon, however, for foals to arrive earlier than 310 days. Normally foals are not considered viable if they are born at less than 300 days of gestation. If you look at our website, you will notice an article we wrote about a foal that arrived at our farm at 282 days and survived.
* The birthing process under normal circumstances occurs very rapidly. If there are no complications, the foal is usually born within 10 minutes from the time that the mare begins active "pushing" labor.
* There is a significant incidence of "dystocia" or mal-presentation births in miniature horses. It is important for those who breed miniature horses to be in attendance at all foalings to assist if there is a birthing problem.
* Foals are generally very strong and active within a couple of hours of birth. They usually nurse vigorously from 4 to 7 times per hour.
* If foals are sick, they will be listless and not nurse vigorously. It is important to seek medical attention promptly within the first day after birth in these cases. Sick foals can go "down hill" very quickly if not attended to. It is critical that they are vigorous within hours of foaling and nursing well.
SHOWING AND MARKETING MINIATURE HORSES
* Miniature horses are shown competitively throughout the nation at local shows through regional events all the way to the annual World Championship Show held in Fort Worth, TX.
* Horses are shown in halter conformation classes, performance classes (in hand trail obstacle, jumping, hunter, showmanship, liberty), and driving classes (pleasure driving, roadster, obstacle driving, team driving)
* Horses are shown in age divisions for the junior horses ( weanling, yearling, two year old). They are also shown in height catagories in both junior and senior horses based on their measurement at the show (under 28", 28" to 30", 30" to 32", and 32" to 34").
* Shows provide classes for all types of exhibitors including youth, amateur, physically/mentally challenged, or open (which includes professional trainers).
* In the northern segment of the country, shows are held in the spring and summer months. In the southern part of the country shows can be held year-round. The national show is usually held in late September.
* There are regional clubs that are organized throughout the country and sponsor shows. An easy way to track down the regional club closest to you would be to go to our home page and click on the American Miniature Horse Association title. This will take you to their website where all of the clubs are listed.
* Prices of miniature horses vary widely depending on quality of the horses, area of the country purchased, color, pedigree, sex and numerous other factors. Starting prices for miniature horses are around $500 for a companion animal with prices graduating up from there based on show potential, elegance of conformation, previous show record, notoriety of parentage and farm where purchased, etc.
There are certain medications that do not interact well with miniatures, bute is one, quest wormer
Miniatures tend to react very strongly to both of these. Banamine is the preferred medicine to use on a miniature
instead of Bute.